#2. The Geomagnetic Field
The geomagnetic field is a giant wave of magnetic energy that extends from the Earth's core all the way to space, where it meets the sun's solar wind. Occasionally, the sun will let off what is essentially a giant fart into said wind. This causes an eruption of freaking huge solar flares that can reach the size of 10 Earths, heading right at our geomagnetic field with all the subtlety you'd expect of a gargantuan star fart.
Next on Sy-Fy: Giant Magnetic Octopus vs. the Sun.
This disturbance hits Earth with a host of wacky effects, such as sudden changes in weather and the electromagnetic grid. The geomagnetic field can even stop your toilet from working, because the universe enjoys petty dickery like that. But having to call the plumber and explain to his carefully maintained poker face that space broke your toilet again is not the really stressful part about the geomagnetic field. No, it goes directly for your brain.
The Stress Factor:
Scientists have found fairly damning connections between periods of high geomagnetic activity and stress. Not just any kind of stress, either -- we're talking dangerous depression here. Over the course of the last five decades, the peaks of geomagnetism and suicide rates tend to match up. Another study found that 10 to 15 percent of the population appears to be constantly affected by geomagnetic activity.
People in Britain are always bumping into that thing.
While the hows and whys behind the phenomenon aren't entirely clear, the reigning theory suggests that the geomagnetic storms are screwing up our pineal gland -- the part of our brain that senses magnetism much in the same way many animals do. However, the pineal gland doesn't use its magnetism powers for the same reason as the animals (they use it for navigation). It uses its magneto-sense to preside over the circadian rhythm (our internal clock) and melatonin production. Yep, it comes back to melatonin again.
"Could someone turn off the wonders of existence now?"
So just as the dim lights in your bedroom messed up your melatonin production, so does this. And as we established just minutes ago, melatonin helps decide what kind of mood you're in today. Which apparently depends on how flatulent the sun is feeling at the moment.
The smartphone is the defining object of the 2010s, much in the same way iPods were in the 2000s and cocaine was in the 1980s. Everyone and their mother has one, and it's easy to see why: It enables you to read your email while you commute, your calendar is always with you and when you're heading into that important meeting and think you're missing some key information, you can bring up an Internet browser and look at some nice porn to take your mind off it.
It's hard to see how a gadget like that would cause stress. If anything, it should relieve it. Isn't playing a fun iPhone game at the dentist's office better than waiting in silence? Isn't knowing your wife can call you if there is trouble better than not knowing?
But "forgetting" your phone avoids those awkward questions about who you sold your children to.
The Stress Factor:
Have you ever felt "phantom vibrations"? You know what we're talking about; it's where you think you feel a vibrating notification from your phone, yet when you check, nothing has happened. Boom! That's smartphone-induced stress, right there in your face.
It's called the "helpful-stressful cycle," and it works like this: You buy a smartphone with the thought that it would help you manage your workload and schedule. But the rest of the world now knows you have it. Your ability to stay in contact while on the road (or at home, or at a party, or in church, or ...) isn't treated as a nice bonus by the rest of the world. They now expect it. So now it's not just nice that you can be reached if something comes up, it's assumed that you're staying on top of every situation. Sure enough, research has found that your stress levels increase with the number of times you check your texts and emails.
"Huh. I still have no friends."
And that makes it nearly impossible to focus on the task at hand, even if that "task" is a picnic with your wife or a child's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's. Every time you check your email, it takes 64 seconds before your mind can get back to whatever you were doing before. For people who check every few minutes, this can waste hours upon hours of perfectly good brain-time every week.
People wind up obsessing over the blings and buzzes of their phones for the same reason gambling is so addictive; if a person only gets rewarded (with a notification/gambling win) occasionally at random intervals, he'll still keep checking and repeating the action -- because the reward could come aaaany time now.
"Please confirm you received the 40 identical kitten photos. Mom xx"
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